Best Fish Finders for Your Money

Fish finders are incredibly useful things and if you're inland lake fishing, ice fishing, or out on the ocean, you're missing a trick if you're fishing without a fish finder.
best fish finders

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I remember the days when I used to go offshore in a canoe with an outboard and no fish finder. Life was tough and all I relied on was my gut and what my eyes could see. The day I started using a fish finder device, everything changed. I could suddenly locate fish based on depth changes and mark them on a GPS and my catch rate went through the roof.

Image Product Details  
flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Budget Fish FinderGarmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual Beam
  • Easy to see color display
  • Very affordable price tag
  • Split-screen available
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Kayak Fish FinderGarmin Striker Plus 7Cv
  • Accurate GPS
  • Simple and intuitive to use
  • Split-screen / Multiple views
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Fish Finder For EverythingGarmin echoMAP Plus 93sv
  • Excellent sonar range
  • Side imaging and ClearVu
  • LakeVü G3 inland maps
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Fish Finder For ConnectivityHumminbird Helix 10 G3N
  • Large 10-inch screen
  • 2 x SD card slots
  • Dual CHIRP Sonar
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Portable Fish FinderHumminbird Helix 5 SI
  • Quick and easy to install
  • Durable & Waterproof
  • GPS & detailed base map included
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest For Transducer SelectionHumminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N CHO
  • Super crisp display
  • Mega DI and CHIRP
  • Fantastic networking connectivity
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest For ImagingLowrance HDS-7 LIVE
  • 6 split-screen possible
  • GPS & C-Map US charts
  • Large 8GB internal storage
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest For OffshoreSimrad Go-7 XSE
  • GPS and Chartplotter includes
  • C-Map Pro charts for free
  • Excellent connectivity
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Finding the right fish finder, however, isn’t so easy as types of fish finders vary and suit one fishing style or another. Then you have the puzzle of which fish finder manufacturers or fish finder brands are better than others, plus marine electronics are quite complicated things.

Not to worry, I’m here to make it simple! Join me as we take a look at the best fish finders on the market and what to look for in order to buy the best fish finder for you.

Our Best Fish Finders

Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual Beam

Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual Beam

Specs

  • Size Display: 4.3 inch 
  • Display: Color 
  • Touch Screen: No 
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 200 W RMS 
  • Frequency: 50/77/83/200 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual spectrum CHIRP sonar
  • GPS: Yes 
  • GPS Memory: Internal 
  • Transducer: Included 
  • Depth: 1600 ft fresh, 750 ft saltwater 
  • CHIRP: Yes 
  • Water Temp: Yes 
  • Wi-Fi: No
  • Bluetooth: No 
  • Charts: No 

Garmin fish finders are some of the most reliable traditional fish finders on the market and the Garmin Striker Plus 4 is no different. These quality fish finders work for years and years without any worries as they are built to last.

The Garmin Striker pretty much does it all but in a very small package. The display is just 4.3 inches which makes it one of the most portable fish finders around. It provides crystal clear images of what’s beneath you and one can split the screen to see the fish finder’s sonar image one half and the GPS on the other.

That’s right, this fish finder comes with GPS so you can mark any great fishing spots you find and return to them quickly the next time you go out. You can not add charts to this down scan fish finder but it will build contour maps of where you fish for you using the Quick Draw feature.

This fish finder features traditional sonar, CHIRP Sonar technology, and dual beam sonar and it will show you an image of any fish or structure under your boat down to 1600ft. It might not be powerful enough to pick up an individual fish but it will add solid fish finding data to your tome on the water.

It comes with a transducer that you works with a trolling motor mount or a transom mount, and is a great kayak fish finder since you can remove it from your vessel after each trip. Another added bonus to this portable fish finder is that it comes with a flasher which is great for jigging and ice fishing.

Overall it’s an excellent fish finder for the money and perfect for taking anywhere from the ice to a lake on a boat or kayak.

Pros

Cons

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 inch
  • Display: Color 
  • Touch Screen: No 
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7 
  • Power: 500 W (RMS)
  • Frequency: 50/77/200 kHz, CHIRP (mid and high), ClearVü 260/455/800 kHz
  • Sonar: ClearVü
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: NA
  • Transducer: Included 
  • Depth: 2300 ft fresh, 1100 ft saltwater 
  • CHIRP: Yes, and ClearVü
  • Water Temp: Yes
  • Wi-Fi: Yes 
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Charts: No 

The Garmin Striker Pl. 7Cv is a bit of an upgrade compared to the Garmin fish finder featured above as it comes with a much larger screen, Wifi connectivity, and ClearVu scanning sonar.

ClearVu scanning sonar is capable of giving you immensely clear sonar data to the point that you’ll see a picture-like image on your display. This means you can ID a single bass next to a brush pile, tell what side it’s on, and fish for it with pinpoint precision.

In addition to ClearVu, it also comes with standard sonar and CHIRP sonar, meaning the fish really have nowhere to hide. All the data such as fish arches will be displayed on the easy-to-read and quite large 7-inch screen. Plus you can split it into 3 views to see your GPS, down imaging, and ClearVu all at the same time.

The fish finder comes with an accurate GPS for navigation, speed, and it allows you to mark spots too. It doesn’t work with charts but it does have QuickDraw which builds a contour chart of where you fish for you. You can also connect your phone to it and see your phone notifications on the display and use the Active Captain App.

Active Captain allows you to share your QuickDraw data with other Garmin users and download theirs, thus allowing you to build a chart faster.

This is the perfect fish finder for a kayak as it’s robust and portable plus with ClearVu, you’ll see and maybe catch more fish than ever.

Pros

Cons

Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv

Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv

Specs

  • Size Display: 9 in.
  • Display: Color 
  • Touch Screen: Yes
  • Waterproofing: IPX7 
  • Power: 500 W (RMS) / 4,000 W (peak to peak)
  • Frequency: 50/77/200 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual, ClearVu, SideVu, CHIRP
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 32Gb micro sd card 
  • Transducer: Included 
  • Depth: 2300 ft fresh, 1100 ft saltwater 
  • CHIRP: Yes 
  • Wi-Fi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Charts: Yes, Lake

The Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv is one of my favorite most modern fish finders and as it pretty much does it all, and without being too complicated like other advanced fish finders.

This fish finder is an upgrade of the Garmin we looked at above and the most noticeable improvement is that this is a side imaging fish finder. With side imaging sonar you not only get to see what’s beneath you with down imaging sonar but also what is on either side of your boat too, leaving pretty much nowhere for fish to hide.

When using SideVu you can see up to 300 ft on each side of your vessel which means you can cover around 600 ft of water with one pass, making finding fish about as easy as it gets. Not only that, but you’ll get a view of the bottom too and can add them both to the crystal clear 9-inch display by splitting the screens.

In addition to side imaging sonar, this fish finder also allows you to use charts with GPS and comes with LakeVü G3 inland maps included for free. You’ll have a detailed contour map of every lake in the US which makes navigating and finding fishy spots like depth changes simple as ever. You can also change the charts to your preferred one, such as Navionics, without any worries.

There really are no faults to this quality fish finder, it has it all and is perfect for lake fishing, and would also be great out on the ocean.

Pros

Cons

Humminbird Helix 10 G3N

Humminbird Helix 10 G3N

Specs

  • Size Display: 10 in. screen 
  • Display: Color 
  • Touch Screen: No 
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7 
  • Power: 1000 Watts (RMS)
  • Frequency: 50/80/200 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual CHIRP
  • GPS: Yes 
  • GPS Memory: Dual SD card slots 
  • Transducer: Included 
  • Depth: 1200 ft 
  • CHIRP: Yes 
  • Wi-Fi: Ethernet 
  • Bluetooth: Yes 
  • Charts: Yes

The Humminbird Helix 10 G3N is quite an advanced fish finder when it comes to networking as it features both Bluetooth and Ethernet connectivity. This means you can use it as a dedicated fish finder for networking and link to another fish finder and to radar, your smartphone, and even to a Minn Kota trolling motor.

You’ll be able to control the trolling motor remotely, use radar to see incoming weather as well as other vessels and get smartphone notifications while leaving your phone in a safe waterproof area.

Compared to other fish finders in this price range, it doesn’t have all the sonar features one would hope for as it comes with just standard sonar and CHIRP sonar. But you can use it with other fish finder transducers to get Mega Down imaging which, in combination with the fish finder’s power of 1000 W RMS gives you an incredibly detailed sonar picture of what is under your boat.

In addition to all the sonar features, it also comes with GPS capabilities and a pretty detailed Humminbird base map. This allows you to navigate safely, know your speed, mark spots, and more. You also have the option to add charts using the dual SD card slots.

Other great features of the fish finder include Auto Chart Live which builds contour maps for you and SwitchFire mode which lets you add and remove detail from your sonar images so you can hone in on what you want to see.

Overall is an excellent unit but it’s more expensive than most fish finders but has fewer sonar capabilities such as side imaging. Plus all the great other features do make it quite hard to learn how to use.

Pros

Cons

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

Specs

  • Size Display: 5-inch screen 
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No 
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7 
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 200/83/455 kHz
  • Sonar: Side Imaging, Down Imaging, DualBeam PLUS
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 1 x SD card slot 
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1500 ft 
  • CHIRP: Yes 
  • WiFi: No 
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Charts: Yes

The Humminbird Helix 5 SI is one of the best portable fish finders on the market as it does it all but in a little portable package.

This is a side imaging fish finder meaning you can scan to the side of your vessel as well as use downing imaging and CHIRP to see what’s below you. This allows you to scan a huge area very quickly and will make fish finding about as easy as it can get.

In addition, this fish finder also comes with Dual Beam which scans with a narrow cone angle for more detail and a wide cone angle for larger coverage. This means you can drift using a wide beam and then when you find say a sunken tree, switch to a tighter cone angle to see if any fish are around it.

Being a smaller unit, the screen is smaller than most fish finders at 5 inches but that’s what makes it portable. It’s still very detailed, shows crips images, and you can split the view to see your GPS and sonar at the same time.

The great thing about this fish finder is that it comes with GPS, a solid base map, and an option to add charts via the SD card slot. This makes navigation and fish finding a lot easier as you can see depth changes, hazards, buoys, harbors, and more on the charts.

The one downfall is that it has very limited connectivity options otherwise is an excellent fish finder.

Pros

Cons

Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N CHO

Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N CHO

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 in. 
  • Display: Color 
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7 
  • Power: 500 W 
  • Frequency: 50/83/200/455 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual Spectrum CHIRP, MEGA Down Imaging
  • GPS: Yes 
  • GPS Memory: SD card slot 
  • Transducer: Not included 
  • Depth: 1200 ft 
  • CHIRP: Yes 
  • WiFi: Ethernet 
  • Bluetooth: Yes 
  • Charts: Yes

The Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N CHO fish finder is a little different from all the other fishfinders featured as it comes without a transducer. This means you will have to buy the transducer separately but it also means you have the chance to pick your own to suit your sonar needs as well as possible.

In terms of sonar, this fish finder is capable of everything except side imaging. It comes with CHIRP sonar for detailed down scan images and Mega Down Imaging which uses high-frequency sonar waves to give you an almost photo quality sonar image.

Other sonar features include sonar recording and playback allowing you to go back and view your sonar imagery to find fishing hot spots you might have missed. As well as SwitchFire mode which lets you add and remove sonar details so you can see only what you want to.

This new fish finder is one of the best around when it comes to networking as it comes with Bluetooth, Ethernet, NMEA, and One Boat Network capabilities. This means you can add radar, link it to your smartphone, another fish finder, to a trolling motor, and lots more.

In addition to all this, it also has GPS and Chartplotter with a built-in base map, and you can add premium charts such as Navionics too. The fish finder also works with Active Captain and will create contour charts of your fishing areas for you.

Pros

Cons

Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE

Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 in.
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: Yes
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 500 W RMS
  • Frequency: 50/83/200/455 kHz
  • Sonar: CHIRP Broadband Active Imaging, DownScan Active Imaging, SideScan
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 2 x micro SD 
  • Transducer: Included 
  • Depth: 1000ft 
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Charts: Yes

The Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE fish finder is brimming with new sonar technology and if you have this fixed fish finder on your boat, there isn’t much of the underwater world you won’t see.

The unit comes with down imaging, CHIRP, side imaging, and something called StructureScan 3D or StructureScan HD. This allows you to see immense detail of anything scanned, particularly in shallow waters. You’ll be able to see all the branches of a sunken tree for example and where the fish are sitting around it.

It comes with a 7-inch solar max touchscreen display which provides crystal clear imagery and can be seen from most angles, even with polarized sunglasses on. The touchscreen makes it much easier to navigate through too as it’s just like using a smartphone.

You can split the screen into up to 6 panels allowing you to view your charts, CHIRP, down imaging, and side imaging, and even engine data all at once. Having all this data so readily available makes on one screen makes life a lot easier as you don’t need to flick through features.

In addition, it also comes with GPS and a Chartplotter. You can add any charts you like to it and it comes with C-Maps US included for free. This makes navigation plus finding and marking fishing hot spots as easy as it gets.

The fish finder also has every kind of connectivity from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth, NMEA, and Ethernet. You can link it to your smartphone, to radar, and even a trolling motor.

There us just one cone to this unit and that is Lowrance’s customer service. If you have a technical issue then you’ll be spending hours on the phone and it will take ages to resolve.

Pros

Cons

Simrad Go-7 XSE

Simrad Go-7 XSE

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 in.
  • Display: Color 
  • Touch Screen: Yes 
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 500 W 
  • Frequency: 83/200/455/800 kHz
  • Sonar: CHIRP/side/down
  • GPS: Yes 
  • GPS Memory: Micro SD Card Slot up to 32GB
  • Transducer: Included 
  • Depth: 1200ft 
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: Yes, plus Ethernet & NMEA
  • Bluetooth: Yes 
  • Charts: Yes

If you’re looking for a fish finder to go way offshore with or to travel from country to country in your boat, the Simrad Go-7 XSE is a solid option. Not only does it have great sonar, GPS, and a Chartplotter (which we’ll discuss later) but you can also add on useful extras such as Auto-Pilot, Radar, and Weather Updates to help you on long voyages.

When it comes to the unit’s fish finding capabilities, it has it all. With the included Active Imaging 3 in 1 transducer you can utilize CHIRP, down, and side-scan and structure scan 3D to see amazing details of fish and the structure their holding to. If you upgrade the transducer, this unit can even do a forward scan!

The touchscreen display makes it easy to navigate through the features and the screen provides excellent clarity. You can split it into 4 views to see multiple bits of data at the same time and it’s readable in all conditions.

The GPS is very accurate and the Chartplotter comes with C-Map Pro charts for free, so you are ready to go as soon as the unit is installed.

To top it all off, the networking capabilities are excellent, and features WiFi, Bluetooth, NMEA, and Ethernet allow you to add all the modules we discussed at the beginner of the review.

This really is a fantastic unit and it’s great for fishing in deep or shallow waters and perfect for long voyages with all the add ons available.

Pros

Cons

How Does A Fish Finder Work?

How Does A Fish Finder Work?

If you’re new to the world of fish finders then everything we discussed above in the fish finder reviews might not make much sense. So, let’s first discuss how fish finders actually work.

Fish finders come in two parts the CHO (control head unit) which sits on the boat usually by the steering wheel and a transducer which is in the water. These are connected via cables and to a power source, usually a marine battery.

Once on, the transducer will send out sound wave frequencies into the water in a particular direction. This can be down, to the side, or forward depending on the model you have. Once the sound waves hit something, such as a fish, weeds, or the bottom, they bounce back or are reflected. These reflected waves are then picked up by the transducer and sent to the CHO for processing.

The CHO calculates the time between the sound waves being sent out and reflected, plus how they are reflected, to build a sonar image on the screen for you to see. That’s the basics of how fish finders and sonar works but it gets a bit more consuming with the types of sonar.

What is the difference between CHIRP, down, and side imaging sonar?

The main differences between all these types of sonar are the frequency of the sounds waves used in each of them.

Fish finders have the ability to send out low-frequency sound waves and high-frequency sound waves, measured in kHz. For example, a unit might have a range of 83/200/455/800 kHz.

Low frequency waves penetrate deep into the water but don’t pick up much detail. High frequency waves do the opposite and pick up a lot of detail but get absorbed by the water, so don’t go as deep. And this is the core of everything you need to know to understand the different types of sonar.

CHIRP (Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse) works by sending out multiple low, medium, and high frequency waves simultaneously thus picking up details in every part of the water column. It provides excellent general detail and is perfect when cruising and looking for fish.

Down and side imaging use exclusively higher frequency waves so that you can see as much detail as possible. So, once you have found a good fishing spot, you can switch to down scan and see exactly what is down there.

Down and side imaging use the exact same sonar just one scans down and the other to either side of your boat.

Do Fish Finders Help You Catch Fish?  

Do Fish Finders Help You Catch Fish

In a word, yes! When you use a fish finder, you suddenly go from fishing blind to knowing your speed, the water depth, you can see depth changes, find structure, if fish are holding on to that structure, and lots more.

If you have never fished with a fish finder then believe me your mind will be blown when you do. Plus, if you have on with GPS and a Chartplotter built-in, you can save fishing spots, find new ones by looking at depth changes on the charts, and lots more.

Can Fish Hear Fish Finders? 

If you swim under a boat while a fish finder is one you can hear a loud clicking noise which is the transducer sending out its sound waves. Fish can probably hear this, but it’s not going to put them off taking a bait.

Is a depth finder the same as a fish finder?

Yes, a depth finder is the exact same thing as a fish finder but just under a different name.

How much does a decent fish finder cost?

A decent fish finder with a transducer should cost around $500 to $1000 USD depending on what it can do. If you’re looking for a touchscreen then the price shoots up to around the $1000 USD plus mark but without a touchscreen, you can find a good one for close to $500 USD.

How deep do fish finders go?

A fish finder’s depth range is dependent on the power of the unit and the low frequency waves it can send out. Most fish finders on the market max out between 1000ft and 2000ft which is more than enough for all freshwater fishermen and almost good enough for saltwater anglers too.

With some units, you can buy a particularly transducer that will send out a very low frequency pulse and give readings of a depth up to 5000 ft.

Do fish finders work for bass?

Yes, fish finders 100% work for bass and all other fish too. Let’s say you’re hunting for bass with a side-scan fish finder in a lake. You’ll be able to see every brush pile on the side of your boat and if there are any bass sitting on it. Once you see a bass, you can come in closer and make a cast to it and mark that place as a new fishing spot on your GPS.

Seriously, if that’s not helpful, I don’t know what is. Fish finders change the game when it comes to this kind of stuff.

Is Lowrance or Humminbird better?

Is Lowrance or Humminbird better

This is a hard question as you’ll find fishermen who swear by both products. If you had never used a fish finder before, I’d say that Humminbird is better than Lowrance as its features are much easier to understand and navigate through for a first timer.

Also, Lowrance units are known for their glitches and their customer service is terrible, so fixing a glitch is also a nightmare. Whereas Humminbird units are stable, reliable, and their customer service is excellent.

Is Lowrance better than Garmin?

Lowrance is better than Garmin at some things, but Garmin is better than Lowrance at a lot of things, so overall Garmin wins. The reason Garmin is better than Lowrance comes down to the same issues with Lowrance I described above – poor customer service and glitchy units.

Is Garmin better than Humminbird?

I’d say Garmin and Humminbird are the two best brands of fish finders on the market as they are super intuitive to use and are packed full of awesome technology that keeps them up to date with others like Lowrance and Simrad.

Also, when you buy a Garmin or Humminbird product, they look after you and make sure you have the support you need.

What is the easiest depth finder to use?

I’d say either Garmin or Humminbird fish finders are the easiest to use. Their feature set and how you navigate through them is very intuitive and easy to work out.

If you have never used a fish finder before, then you should be aware that they do take some time to get used to, no matter which brand you go with. But, Garmin and Humminbird seem to make it way less complicated than the others.

Are fish finders waterproof?

Yes, almost all units are waterproof and rated to IPX7. IPX7 waterproofing means that the unit can be submerged up to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes without being damaged. This means your fish finder can get splashed and rained out without any concern.

What Should I Look For When Buying A Fish Finder?

What Should I Look For When Buying A Fish Finder

Types

The first thing you need to decide is what type of unit you’re looking for. If it’s for a boat, you’ll want a fixed mounted unit that goes on the center console. If are going to be using the unit exclusively in a kayak, you’re going to want a portable fish finder that you can take home every day.

Display 

There are two things to think about when it comes to fish finder displays – size and touchscreen. The bigger the screen the easier it’s going to be to see your sonar images. You can also utilize the size to split the screen into multiple views, some up to 6, so you can see multiple bits of data at the same time.

Touchscreens make life a lot easier in terms of navigating through the features but they also add a hell of a lot to the price.

If money is no object, I’d recommend getting the biggest touchscreen display out there. If you’re on a budget, get the largest non-touchscreen display you can afford.

Sonar Features

When it comes to sonar features, and I mean CHIRP, down and side scan, it’s best to have them all if you can. But, as with anything in the world, the more features you get the more expensive a unit is.

If you’re shopping on a budget, then CHRIP is enough but if you can get down and side scan too then the underwater world will be opened up to you.

GPS & Charts

All the units from the fish finder reviews come with GPS but not all of them come with charts. GPS is incredibly handy as it will tell you your speed and allow you to mark spots on the map to return to later too.

GPS becomes even more useful when it’s combined with charts! You can then see yourself on a contour chart of the area that will tell you about depth changes, hazards, harbors, launch sites, entrances, and lots more.

Fish finders that come with GPS and Chartplotter are a bit more expensive than the ones that come with just GPS but they are worth it in my eyes.

sounding out

Sounding Out

So which fish finder should you go for?

I’d for the Humminbird Helix 5 SI as it’s the middle ground of them all but with all the features. You get every kind of sonar plus a GPS Chartplotter all rolled into a portable package. You can use it on a boat, or a kayak with ease.

If you’re on a budget, want maximum portability and to go ice fishing then the Striker 4 by Garmin is perfect. When it comes to offshore fishing, I’d pick the Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv as it’s reliable and has all the features you need.

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and have found the right fish finder for you, happy sounding!

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